The Big C

Not just a tv program.  When we were young Cancer would pick and choose, here and there.   As we age it cuts a broad swath through our midst, but with expensive medical care, we are beating it back.  My cousin in Virginia with the malignant brain tumor had it removed and was doing crossword puzzles the next day.  An MRI has shown no other cancer.  My cousin in Washington State with multiple myeloma says, The chemical experiment running in my body is designed to provide a ‘mexican’ standoff with the cancer.  My brother has just had a skin cancer removed from above his lip and has a three-inch incision to show for it.  The radiation treatments for my skin cancer have turned my nose to raw hamburger, and I still have a week of treatments to go.

But when I go into Arizona Oncology for my treatments I see all those with hair loss due to chemotherapy in addition to their radiation.  In the main waiting room have been many women with walkers, oxygen tanks, scarves or hats covering their bald heads, accompanied by husbands or daughters.  Seem to be more women than men needing treatment.  The Green Valley residents wear primarily shorts and golf shirts, but an occasional elderly (that is, older than me) woman will be wearing a dress and stockings.  Mostly Seniors (it is Green Valley) but a young woman with two pre-school children, a young man with a four-year-old daughter.

One of the women I sit with in the back waiting room had told me about her lung cancer.  She is very cheerful and has a nice wig.  Another woman has gone into great detail explaining her breast cancer and how lymph nodes are affected.  Mentioned the $3,000 (!) shot she got to raise her white blood cell count after chemo.  She wears a baseball cap over her bald head.  The two men I used to share the van with were cowboys, one with long hair and a handlebar mustache, the other a small Hispanic with very nice cowboy boots.  Neither could talk.  I thought of my father, who had throat cancer.  One of the men with whom I now travel to Green Valley for our treatments has colon cancer.  He wears a packet around his waist that administers his chemo during our trip.  (As the chemo takes four hours, he has to continue it back at the Tucson office.)  My basal cell cancer is so trivial compared to theirs, although I remember a man in our town in Jamaica thirty-five years ago who had leprosy and had lost his nose.  Don’t want to lose mine due to cancer.

And then there’s Steve Jobs, dead at 56 from pancreatic cancer.  56!  The Web has been full of his accolades, but the Sunday before his death, this:

A Trip to China Can Make a Guy Hate His iPhone
Mike Daisey, one of the great solo storytellers of contemporary theater, in “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” profiles Mr. Jobs, Apple’s former chief executive, the brilliant micromanager who acknowledged in 2004 that he was battling pancreatic cancer. The other half describes Mr. Daisey’s trip to Shenzhen, China, where he posed as a wealthy businessman to infiltrate factories where Apple products and other electronics are made. He says he witnessed inhumane conditions and interviewed workers outside of factories who said they were as young as 12.


Had to have the spa pump replaced.  The guy who did it was spooked because there was a rattlesnake skin in the pit with the pump (luckily just the skin) and a scorpion on the pump itself.  But you would think that someone working on pool equipment would be used to desert critters!

A painter should be starting this next week on my outdoor railing from which the paint is peeling.  It needs a rust treatment before repainting.  The pleasures of home ownership.

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5 Responses to “The Big C”

  1. Jim Says:

    Several years ago, Mary’s was diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma several years ago. Her Kaiser dermatologist recommended radiation treatement. Mary crossed examined him on alternative treatments – surgery and chemotherapy by topical cream, and against his advice chose the topical cream. I carefully examined the effects daily. First there was increasing redness of the carcinoma. Then there was decreasing redness , and increasing transformation of the carcinoma into a large scab. Finally, the scab fell off, leaving perfectly formed nose tissue. This all occurred over a period about a month – all costing Kaiser the diagnosis and the tube of chemotherapeutic cream. Since then we have been enjoying a strictly natural diet.

  2. Jim Says:

    Mary, just now, corrected me: her Kaiser dermatologist recommended surgery – not radiation. It would be interesting to know, from comparative scientific studies, the different results produced by these three kinds of treatments – in terms of cures and medical profiteering.

  3. dick Says:

    @Jim: I tried the topical chemo creme on my lip and it didn’t fully get rid of the basal cell. I’ve just had Moh’s surgery which is reputed to be 99% effective (they analyse the sample taken on site before sewing you back up).

  4. dick Says:

    Oh…one other thing. The surgery was expensive but mostly covered by my insurance. The tube of chemo creme was relatively inexpensive, and might have worked if I’d have been a bit more methodical and persistent with it.

  5. Jim Says:

    Hi Dick,

    If the chemical is not applied in large enough quantities and for a enough long period, some of the youngest cancer cells, which are the most resistant to the chemical, survive. When a cancer has grown too deep to access with the chemical, surgery is necessary. If I had to treat myself with the chemical, I would wait until the cancer looked entirely dead, then squeeze the ulcer gently to expel as much as possible of the dead mass; and then thoroughly clean out the cavity with a dental waterpik and fill the cavity once of the chemical. This I would do first, experimentally, before agreeing to surgery. What makes you believe that the cancer was entirely dead when you stopped applying the chemical?

    Radiation and surgery, although removing large quantities of the healthy tissue which surrounds the cancers, are notorious for missing some of the cancer cells, which then multiply very rapidly and kill the patient – as we just witnessed, in the case of Jobs, who was treated by some of America’s leading specialists.

    Cancer treatments by radiation and surgery are very profitable industries for the American medical profession -which makes getting several opinions so crucial.



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